This post is a question. A highly self-indulgent question. About my dog. Consider yourself warned.
The question is this: why have I, a person who explicitly rejects mind-body dualisms, readily altered my dog’s physiology through medicine and surgeries, but strongly resisted altering his brain chemistry through anti-anxiety drugs? Or, in other words, why am I so cool with technologies of the body but distinctly uncomfortable with technologies of the mind?
Becoming a parent has inflected how I see everything in the world, including the practice of “being online.” I apologize for using scare quotes so soon into this essay, but it feels necessary. “Online” contains several types of possible connection, as Jenny Davis and others at Cyborgology have argued. And the “being” part is what needs to be at stake: how does the way in which we exist change when that existence is networked and distributed? The anthropology of “being online” therefore includes a consideration of the ontological effects on people as much as empirically measurable effects of using iPads and Facebook.
A common narrative, and one Cyborgology has consistently disputed, is that “technology” or “social media” or “the digital” have impinged on an authentic mode of life that previously existed and which we retroactively call “offline.” This narrative relies on constructing images that can quickly code as “authentic,” as in this video that Nathan Jurgenson has dissected. The graphic above, from a New York Times essay, crystallizes this narrative as it makes us of family and child-rearing as an icon of authentic offline living. Devices and the information they present come between a parent and the child. They blot out the child’s pleading face. Tellingly, the phone is represented as blank–the viewer is not asked to make a judgment about the value of what the person is doing with the phone (checking Twitter? responding to an email? calling 911?), they are asked to condemn its vacuity. (more…)
The Cyborg project, as articulated by Haraway, is at its core, a utopic project. It is the melding of mechanical and organic, digital and physical, human, machine, and animal in such a way that categorizations cease to hold meaning, and in turn, cyborg bodies break through repressive boundaries.
And yet here we are, at the pinnacle of a cyborg era, inundated with high tech, engaged simultaneously in digital and physical spaces, maintaining relationships with organic and mechanical beings, constituted with and through language, medicines—and increasingly—machines, and we STILL have to deal with bullshit like this (click below to view):
Watching the ideas materialize, disseminate, get knocked down and picked back up all in near real time is either the greatest advantage digital dualism theory has, or its biggest downfall—its best feature or worst flaw. Or both. Personally, I’m having a blast, even if it’s a bit of a distraction from my dissertation. It’s the spirit of this blog, a rare academic space to try ideas out, work on them, debate them, meet new people, and watch the idea, one hopes, get better and stronger. Or sometimes no one cares and we move on. This is what I love about my colleagues on Twitter (I’ll never type the word tweeps), this blog, and the Theorizing the Web conference.
The drawback is (more…)
The result of a Google Image search for “High Tech” What the hell could this possibly mean? Image c/o Small Business Trends
If you live in the United States and have been adjacent to something with the news on it, you have probably heard of the “Fiscal Cliff.” The fiscal cliff refers to several major tax breaks and earned benefit compensation programs that were set to expire at the end of 2012 unless Congress raised the debt ceiling. One of the few good things to come out of this manufactured crisis was some excellent reporting on the power of metaphor in politics. The ability to spur action and drive public opinion while offering next-to-no information demonstrates the awesome power of metaphors. Most people did not know why we were falling off the cliff, what the cliff was made of, or what the consequences for falling would be. Slate’s Lexicon Valley covered this phenomenon in an episode last month titled “Good is Up.” Co-hosts Mike Vuolo and Bob Garfield dissected the cliff metaphor using the classic book, Metaphors We Live By (1980) by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson. Vuolo and Garfield note, “‘Success is rising’ and ‘failing is falling.’ Lakoff believes these primal, spatial metaphors form what he calls a ‘neural cascade’ that he says is ‘so tightly integrated and so natural that we barely notice them, if we notice them at all.’” In short, we might not understand what goes into creating or averting the fiscal cliff, but we know it should be avoided. Going down is bad, and staying up is good. The episode got me thinking about similar spatial metaphors and the work they do in our augmented society. One of the more ubiquitous metaphors is “high tech.” Is high tech “good” technology? Or is it high in the same way the Anglican Church uses the word; steeped in conservative traditions and formal code? (more…)
Via National Postal Museum
Most Wanted posters, having lost their long standing place at the Post Office, have found a new home on Pinterest. Following the Philadelphia Police Department, police in Pottstown PA, are now electronically pinning images of those with outstanding arrest warrants. Yes, the same place people exchange recipes and DIY home tips is increasingly also place in which police officers disseminate photographs of felons on the lam (time out: I just got to use the phrase “on the lam” in an academic-ish piece of writing. *self high-five*).
This use of Pinterest for mugshot dissemination is theoretically interesting in a number of ways. Here, I denote three key interrelated insights: (more…)
What Facebook knows about you, via the Spectacular Optical tumblr (click for more images)
Rob Horning has been working on the topic of the “Data Self.” His project has a close parallel to my own work and after reading his latest post, I’d like to jump in and offer a conceptual distinction for thinking about the intersection of the online/data/Profile and the offline/Person.
The problem is that our online presence is too often seen as only the byproduct of our offline selves. Sometimes we talk about the way online profiles are passive reflections of who we are and what we do and other times we acknowledge our profiles are also partly performative adjustments to the “reality” of the person. However, in all the discussion of individuals creating this content what is often neglected is how the individual, in all of their offline experience, behavior and existence, is simultaneously being created by this very online data. We cannot describe how a person creates their Profile without always acknowledging how the Profile creates the person.
Siri on iPhone 4S lets you use your voice to send messages, schedule meetings, place phone calls, and more. Ask Siri to do things just by talking the way you talk. Siri understands what you say, knows what you mean, and even talks back. Siri is so easy to use and does so much, you’ll keep finding more and more ways to use it.
The paragraph above is taken directly from the Apple iPhone homepage. It is a description of Siri, one of the most talked about features of the new iPhone 4S. I argue here that Siri is rich with cultural meanings, and that these cultural meanings reside at the intersection of gender, market economy, and technology. (more…)
Alan Turing, Father of Computer Science
President Obama declared June to be LGBT Pride Month and so, I though it would be appropriate for us here at Cyborgology, to take a moment and recognize how LGBT peoples were foundational to the construction of cyborg studies and other inter/trans/multidisciplinary fields. I should note upfront that this incredibly brief summary, from a macro perspective, does some violence to the critical nuance of all the fields mentioned. I hope this post encourages further research, not angry comments about my (acknowledged) hurried treatment of the subject matter. Consider this more of a conversation-starter, than a stand-alone digest. I would also like to thank my good friend Naomi Ardjomandkermani for inspiring me to do this post. She does fantastic work with intersex communities on the web at http://intersexresources.moonfruit.com.
Yesterday, Sang-Hyoun Pahk delivered a critique of the usage of the term augmented reality on this blog. First, thank you, criticism of this term is especially important for me (and others) because augmented reality is the fundamental unit of analysis about which I seek to describe. A quick catch-up: I initially laid out the idea of augmented reality here; expounded on its opposite, what I call digital dualism, here; and fellow Cyborgology editor PJ takes on the terms here. PJ Rey and I use the term augmented reality on this blog to describe the digital and physical worlds not as separate but instead as highly enmeshed together. And Sang is pushing us to further elaborate on what this all means.
I’ll tackle Sang’s second critique first because I think it is most important. The confusion comes from how two points hang together: (1) the digital and physical have enmeshed and (2) the digital and physical have important differences. Sang seems to be arguing that we cannot have it both ways, but I have and will continue maintain that we can.
Sang takes issue with PJ and I’s statements that the offline and online are mutually constitutive, which seems to “abolish the difference” between the two. I actually think we all agree here and perhaps PJ and I could have been clearer: the two are mutually constitutive, just not fully mutually constitutive. Let me offer new wording: atoms and bits have different properties, influence each other, and together create reality. (more…)